Monday, December 10

Submission: Students should make better use of recycling bins on campus


A new year brings new opportunity and new motivation to be our best and do our best. That includes working toward a healthier campus and environment. Central to that goal is changing the way we handle our trash.

When you finish your sandwich or your drink, where do you throw out your trash?

UCLA Facilities Management provides two types of bins all over campus. One holds all recyclables – everything that can decompose. The other bin is meant for trash that isn’t recyclable, like chip bags and leftover food.

Unfortunately, it appears as though too many people on campus are still throwing recyclables into the other bin, and nonrecyclables into the recycling bins. Given the havoc these habits wreak on the environment, the UCLA community should make a greater effort to only use recycling bins to discard their recyclables.

The average person uses over 300 plastic bottles each year, but only 7 to 22 percent will be recycled.

The other 93 percent end up in landfills where they permanently reside, are incinerated or burned for energy or make their way into the oceans. Once in the oceans, plastic degrades into smaller and smaller pieces, which damage ecosystems, contribute to oceanic dead zones – areas of the oceans devoid of oxygen and life, release toxic chemicals and are eventually consumed by small fish and larger sea creatures, which in turn make their way onto our plates.

We all complain that corporations and businesses do not do their part to recycle or protect the environment. However, UCLA has done its part by providing 310 side-by-side recycling and trash bin sets, 80 recycling dumpsters, 90 trash dumpsters and 25 composting dumpsters. Additionally, campus provides 630 indoor mixed-recyclable receptacles and over 840 white paper waste bins, according to Chief Sustainability Officer Nurit Katz.

But just as UCLA provides us with the opportunity to be participants in a “global clean up,” it is important and necessary that we also do our part.

The next time you see the two side-by-side bins, please look at them. Both are probably equally full. Clearly, UCLA’s message is either getting muddled or we are not living up to our responsibility to recycle appropriately. We can do better.

As someone who cares deeply about the environment and the state of our planet, I implore you to be an active participant in making Earth and the UCLA campus a little bit healthier. And that starts with putting your trash in the correct bin.

The blue bins are for recyclables – any nonfood waste including paper goods, empty plastic containers, cans, empty bottles, plastic coffee lids and other plastic bags.

The black bins are for food waste and nondecomposable materials including gum, plastic foam, chip bags, heavily soiled plates and other compostables.

And in the near future, new compost bins will allow you to separate your recyclables, compostables and trash. Some areas, like Lu Valle Commons, parts of the Hill and Pauley Pavilion have compost bins out in public already. All UCLA dining facilities collect compostables in the back of the house.

We live on a planet with finite resources, finite ability to regenerate, reproduce and stay healthy. If we want Earth to survive more generations, we need to be better stewards and protectors of it. Recent reports indicate we could lose two-thirds of all species by 2050 because of climate change, habitat loss and our overuse of resources. We owe it to ourselves and to Earth to use our resources better, recycle the ones that we can, compost whenever possible, and be more conscientious about where we are putting our trash.

UCLA is aiming to get to zero waste to landfill by 2020. Meeting that goal will require all of us to participate and do our part.

Hummes is an assistant adjunct professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

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